By Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The “Reclaim MLK Day” march on Monday drew more than 7,000 people for a day of activism and protest in the streets of center city Philadelphia. It was one of the largest Rev. Martin Luther King holiday demonstrations Philadelphia has seen in years.
And the organizers of that march are not the names usually associated with traditional civic leadership in Philadelphia.
When it comes to civil rights and politics in Philadelphia, you’re probably used to hearing from groups like the Philadelphia NAACP, the Black Clergy, or activist politicians. But the “Reclaim MLK Day March and Rally” on Monday revealed a new leadership guard that’s growing in power.
“People are sick and tired of being sick and tired, and eventually you get to a place where you have to step up and move,” says Bishop Dwayne Royster, the executive director of POWER (Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower, and Rebuild). The group, composed of about 40 churches, worked to facilitate the march.
“Philadelphia is a mess, so if Philadelphia is mess all those people responsible for making it happen haven’t done anything to fix it,” says Royster. “We have a very distinct vision of a Philadelphia where everybody has an opportunity,” he adds. And he says they welcome all organizations who share their vision to come forward to help.
While POWER facilitated the organization of the march by offering space for meetings at Mother Bethel Church, pastored by Rev. Mark Tyler, the event itself was put together by a diverse coalition of roughly 70 groups. They call themselves the “MLK DARE” (Day of Action, Resistance, and Empowerment) Coalition, and it includes people of all races and ages focused on criminal justice, jobs, and education.
“This may actually be a movement — people may actually be paying attention,” says Paul Winston Cange, 21. “There may be a structural shift in the way that we do politics in this city.” A junior at Temple University, he helps lead the student group People Utilizing Real Power. And he says Monday’s march sent a message:
“To the political leadership of this city, they cannot continue to act in the way that they have done and they’re going to have to atone for their actions.”
The MLK DARE Coalition has issued a list of demands for the City of Philadelphia in the areas of education, the economy, and justice, focusing on fair funding for schools, a higher minimum wage, and an end to stop-and-frisk. And they say this is just the beginning.
Hear the extended interview with this group in the CBS Philly podcast below (runs 46:14)…
The coalition is continuing its work, beginning tomorrow. Members are meeting at Mother Bethel AME Church. For more information, go to reclaimMLK.com.